Holidays to Ireland allow you to explore what is, without doubt, one of the world’s most uniquely beautiful destinations. With hundreds of miles of scenic coastline and countless charming towns and villages to discover, the most difficult thing about seeing the highlights of the ‘Emerald Isle’ is knowing where to start!
With the right amount of planning and preparation, however, you’d be surprised by how much can be squeezed into a week, a weekend or even just a day. Don’t believe us? Read on to find out how you can visit several of Ireland’s most stunning spots in just 12 hours or so – and still find time to enjoy some great food and drink along the way.
Your day begins bright and early in the historic capital of Ireland, so using one of Dublin holiday cottages as your base would make perfect sense. There would be plenty here to keep you amused for an entire week, of course, but time is of the essence and the most important thing is to fuel up for the busy day that lies ahead.
We recommend starting your morning with breakfast at the Beanhive in Dawson Street. This café has an enviable local reputation for being both high-quality and low-cost, meaning that it’s the perfect choice for those looking to make the most of their spending money during their holidays to Ireland. From porridge and scrambled eggs to a delicious breakfast sandwich, there’s no shortage of choice on the Beanhive breakfast menu. Surely most customers, however, wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to indulge in a delicious, nine-item full Irish breakfast (with toast and a hot drink included) for just €9.95.
After this, you’ll be on your way to Limerick, which is the longest stretch of travel you’ll have to make during the day. If you make the journey by train, however, you’ll be treated to some truly beautiful views of the green, unspoilt Irish countryside, which you’ll find is worth the trip alone.
No holidays to Ireland would be complete without a trip to the lovely city of Limerick, which is famed for its stunning medieval architecture, historic attractions and family-friendly atmosphere.
How you choose to spend your time in the city is up to you, of course, but we’d recommend taking the chance to see some of its most significant landmarks on a walking tour that follows in the footsteps of Frank McCourt, author of the timeless Angela’s Ashes memoir. Starting from the Tourist Information Office, this tour takes in many places mentioned in the classic book, including the River Shannon, South’s Pub and several churches. And, in case you were wondering, Limerick is happily now a much gentler place than the 1930s city McCourt grew up in!
From here, you will make your way along the banks of the Shannon Estuary for 20 minutes or so towards the picturesque village of Bunratty, where your day will get even more interesting.
Whether or not you and your family have been thinking about booking holidays to Ireland to enjoy learning more about the country’s history, you’re sure to be fascinated by a trip to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.
The castle itself, which dates all the way back to the 15th century, is open all-year round and offers visitors guided tours of a site which is home to an incredible collection of ancient tapestries, furnishings and works of art.
Bunratty Castle also plays host to nightly medieval banquets that are guaranteed to delight every guest with their mix of great food, hilarious acting and traditional music. However, time is short (and, besides, you’ll probably still be full after breakfast!), so we recommend having a quick bite to eat at the excellent new on-site café, Mr O’Regan’s, to keep you going until the evening.
At the adjoining Folk Park, meanwhile, you’ll find an amazing ‘living village’, complete with professional, costumed actors and more than 30 specially constructed buildings spread over 26 acres - all of which has been designed to recreate the experience of what life was like in 19th century rural Ireland.
Related: Castles in Ireland
It may seem like 4 PM is a little late in the day to visit a natural attraction but, if you are planning on coming to Ireland during the summer months, this is the best time to take a trip to the beautiful Cliffs of Moher. This is because demand to see the extraordinary views available at the cliffs is so high that overcrowding can become a problem at peak times!
If you make sure you visit as the sun is setting, though (the cliffs are almost exactly one hours’ drive from Bunratty), you will benefit from both a quieter atmosphere and the most incredible coastal outlooks you are ever likely to witness.
Far beyond what you’d usually expect to enjoy amid a natural wilderness, the visitor experience at the Cliffs of Moher has been extensively yet sympathetically added to in recent years; three viewing platforms and a purpose-built Visitor Centre allow those who make the journey there to take in the cliffs and the sea beyond in their best possible light, as well as learning more about their history.
Whether or not you choose to follow the exact itinerary we’ve set out above, one thing is for sure: there is so much to see and do on any holidays to Ireland that you are bound to have worked up an appetite by the time evening comes around! Fortunately, Ireland is full to the brim with world-class restaurants in which you and your family can round off a busy day in style.
And where better could there be to enjoy a memorable meal than in the magical City of the Tribes, Galway? Wherever you dine, make sure you take at least half an hour or so beforehand to stroll around the picture-perfect cobbled streets that lend Galway an extra layer of old-world charm; it really is one of the most colourful city centres you’ll ever see, not just in Ireland but anywhere.
As for your evening meal, you’ll be spoilt for choice down Galway’s Quay Street which a range of dining experiences to choose from. Just what you need before you retire to the comfort of your Imagine Ireland cottage holiday home.
Related: Ireland Road Trip Guide